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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CEO of Le Meridien Says 'Oui' to Moscow

The culture of hospitality in Moscow has gone from "nyet" to "oui, avec plaisir" in just 15 years, said Jurgen Bartels, chief executive of Le Meridien, the London-based global luxury hotel group.

Speaking at the National hotel, which is operated by Le Meridien, he described the 99-year-old hotel across from the Kremlin as astonishing and the service as "very, very good.

"If you allow me to say this, because I know the hotels of the world," he added.

Bartels outlined his plans for Le Meridien, which he has headed since Nomura International PLC's Principal Finance Group took it over last year. He has vowed to make it the No. 1 hotel group in the world by 2004.

Among several strategies, he said, soon all Le Meridien staff will wear badges bearing the words "oui, avec plaisir," which is French for "yes, with pleasure." Bartels said French speakers will be delighted, while speakers of other languages may be inspired to strike up conversation with staff members about the words' meaning, giving an opportunity for interaction.

Le Meridien wants to expand its business beyond the City Hall-owned National and the Moscow Country Club, which is owned by the Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps, or UpDK.

Bartels did not name any specific plans, but he said Le Meridien was not interested in entering the mid-range market.

The cities generating the most sales to Le Meridien internationally are Tokyo, New York, London and Paris, he said.

"I believe that Moscow will deliver customers in a similar way in the next five years," Bartels said. "We want to be part of that growth in Moscow."

John Ryan, senior vice president of worldwide sales for Le Meridien, echoed Bartels' words. "Russia is an important growth market for Le Meridien, both for inbound and outbound business," he said in a statement. "We are already experiencing 50 percent growth year on year."

Bartels announced Le Meridien is to open its own sales office in Moscow on April 15 to accept bookings for 144 hotels and resorts worldwide. The office will be located at 12 Trubnaya Ulitsa. Le Meridien's partner in the sales project will be local firm Karlson Tourism.

On Friday, Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts opened a new sales representative office at Karlson's office at 18 Tverskaya Ulitsa.

Karlson has signed a general sales representative agreement with Radisson SAS to offer an easy procedure to book rooms in nearly 150 first-class hotels worldwide.

"The brand awareness of Radisson SAS is growing in Russia and the CIS," said Paul Taylor, regional director of sales and marketing. "This is a follow-up to the Radisson SAS hotel opening in St. Petersburg last year. We are eager to continue strengthening the brand presence in Moscow and offering new types of services."